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Oregon Genealogy & Ancestry

The State of Oregon was organized as territory on Aug. 14, 1848 and entered the union as the 33rd state on Febuary 14, 1859. It has 36 Counties.

Bordered by CaliforniaIdahoNevadaWashington has a land area of 98,386, making it the 9th largest state. As of 2017, its population was 4,142,776 across 36 Counties. Oregon’s capital is Salem and its official state website is

Oregon’s largest cities, as of 2010, are Portland (583,776 residents), Eugene (156,185 residents), Salem (154,637 residents), Gresham (105,594 residents), Hillsboro (91,611 residents), Beaverton (89,803 residents), Bend (76,639 residents), Medford (74,907 residents), Springfield (59,403 residents), and Corvallis (54,462 residents).

It’s uncertain exactly where Oregon’s name originated, but one theory holds that it has its roots in the French word Ouragan (Hurricane), a name once applied to the Columbia River by Native Americans. Oregon’s nickname is “The Beaver State,” and its state motto is “She Flies With Her Own Wings.”.

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History of Oregon

The State of Oregon was organized as territory on Aug. 14, 1848, and entered the union as the 33rd state on February 14, 1859. Its first city was Willamette Falls, later called Oregon City, established in 1829 by Dr. John McLoughlin, chief broker for the Hudson Bay Company. Many of Oregon’s first residents were retired French Canadian trappers from that same company, who began farming on the banks of the Willamette River at Champoeg, near present-day St. Paul. Most of Oregon’s early settlers were of similar background.

In the early 1840s, American missionaries began encouraging immigration to the state. Sponsored by the Congregational, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Catholic Churches, they established several settlements throughout the territory. Their efforts brought many farmers from the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio river valleys, who journeyed to the state with the invitation of free land and the promise of a better life.

Between 1840 and 1860 53,000 immigrants settled in Oregon. Many of these settlers were provided with between 160 and 320 acres of land by the Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850, though this applied exclusively to white males. Wives could receive an additional 160 to 320 acres in their own right.

Oregon’s new residents did not all have peaceful lives at first. The years between 1847 and 1856 were plagued by conflict between natives and settlers throughout the state. It wasn’t until 1859, when Oregon achieved statehood, that things began to stabilize.

It was in 1862 that things really began to pick up for the state, as gold mining in Baker and Grant Counties brought prosperity to the entire region. Cattle drives moved across the Cascades from the valleys to feed the workers, giving rise to cattle-baron empires and cattle-towns such as Burns, Lakeview, and Prineville. The sheep industry followed the cattle empires in Northeastern Oregon, contributing to the growth of towns such as Condon, Heppner, and Pendleton.

European immigrants began to migrate to Oregon in the 1870s. Scandinavians drawn by fishing settled in coastal areas, and a large number of Finns settled at Astoria. Swiss immigrants settled at Tillamook and began the cheese industry in the area.

Established in 1844, Portland became a major port during the 1870s, eventually attaining status as one of the major wheat ports of the world. Portland’s thriving economy drew a wide range of foreign immigrants including Chinese, Germans, Irish, Jews, Scandinavians, and Scots.